Motorola Droid Turbo 2 – Shattering the Motorola business model, but not your screen.

By Herald de Paris Contributor's Bureau on November 22, 2015


By Brian Payne, Special to the Herald de Paris
ASHEVILLE, NC (Herald de Paris) — In today’s mobile world, many people change cellular carriers like they change socks. They enjoy the freedom of being able to move from one carrier to the next, whenever a greener pasture presents itself. This trend has created many smaller carriers and has changed the way many of the larger carriers manage their business. It has also created a movement away from carrier branded phones. Many buyers want a phone that is as flexible as they are about the carrier they choose to get their service from. One of the biggest obstacles for many has been the costs of this movement. Lack of carrier branding and contractual commitments means lack of carrier subsidies. Manufacturers have picked up on this and have been creating lower cost devices that are more compatible with the financial constraints attached to this model. An excellent example of this has been the resurgent Motorola Mobility. During the time that they were owned by Google, Motorola started making some really terrific phones, that maybe were not the top of the line on specs, but combined with the Motorola software suite gave a user experience that was un-rivaled by more expensive devices. Motorola has now taken this a step further by selling refusing to sell any of their 2015 Moto devices through carriers. The devices are sold at a lower cost point directly through Motorola or other non-carrier 3rd party retailers.

So why in the world would Motorola continue their relationship with Verizon, creating not only carrier branded devices but carrier exclusive devices in the Droid line? Simple; development dollars. The Droid line is a showcase for Verizon. It’s name is synonymous with Android powered phones in the US. If you have used Android smartphones for any length of time you have likely either owned at least one Droid or wished you did at some point. The Droid line was so intrinsic to the growth of Android in the US that many still refer to all Android powered phones as Droids. As a result, Verizon is willing to pump some development funds into this line of phones. At a time when Motorola Mobility appears to be struggling financially, to the extent that they are spending little to nothing advertising their Moto lines, the infusion of development money helps to fund things that they cannot afford to do on their Moto line, at least not at the price point they want to sell them. For the end user this means higher spec devices and in the case of the Droid Turbo 2, a feature that you currently can’t get anywhere else, a shatterproof screen.

I used the original Motorola Moto X in 2014 as well as the second generation Moto X for most of 2015, but when the third generation Moto X was released I was not feeling the need to rush out and get it. In fact, I was giving strong consideration to moving on to a different OEM. There just wasn’t anything compelling enough about the device to get me excited about buying it. Enter the Droid Turbo 2. One look at the device will tell you that it is a Motorola device. The gentle curve of the back of the phone that allows it sit more comfortably in your hand, the Motorola dimple on the rear of the phone, and the Moto Display reminding you of your notifications every time you move near it.

droid-turbo-2 (1)The Turbo 2 offers much of the same customizations as it’s unbranded Moto X cousin. It can be purchased from any Verizon outlet in four color choices; black front with grey metal trim and a black soft touch plastic back, black front with champagne metal trim and a black leather back, black front with grey metal trim and a grey ballistic nylon back, or a white front, grey metal trim, and a white soft touch plastic back. The ready made Turbo 2’s are only available in 32gb. Like the Moto X, the Turbo 2 is also available to be customized on the Motorola website, where users can choose from 32gb and 64bg variants, white or black fronts, grey or champagne metal trim on the black fronts, 3 different back materials in a range of colors, ten different accent colors, as well as customized greetings when you power on the device, and personalized engraving on the leather backs.

In addition, the 64gb variant comes with an added bonus; you get one free redesign within 2 years of purchase. That’s right, if you buy a 64gb variant, you are able to return to Motorola’s website within 2 years and design a completely new phone, not a bad selling point.

So what sets the Droid Turbo 2 apart from it’s less expensive Moto X cousin?

The Turbo 2 uses the newer and faster 2.0 GHz octacore Snapdragon 810 processor while the Moto X uses the 1.8 GHz hexacore Snapdragon 808 processor. Some comparisons have said that the faster processor makes the Turbo 2 slightly snappier than the Moto X and helps make for faster camera, although I don’t have the 3rd generation Moto X to compare. Both devices offer 3 GB of memory as well as 32 and 64 GB storage options. The Moto X also has a 16 GB option. Like the 3rd generation Moto X, the Turbo 2 also includes micro SD card support. With the ability to expand storage up to 2TB, you will never run out of space on this phone.

The Turbo 2 has a 3750 mAH battery with quick charge technology that allows you to get 13 hours of charge in 15 minutes, while the Moto X has a 3000 mAH battery with quick charge technology that allows you to get 10 hours of charge in 15 minutes. The Turbo 2 also includes wireless charging abilities through Qi and PMA, a function that I have never fully understood being left off of the Moto X line. They both use the same 21mp rear camera with 4k video capture capability. They also both have the same 5 mp front camera as well as front facing flash. One big difference is the screen. Past Moto X devices had relied on AMOLED screens, which had helped one of Motorola’s best apps, Moto Display, sip energy while showing pulsing notifications without turning on the device. This year, the Moto X went with a 5.7” TFT LCD Quad HD display with 1440 resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The Turbo 2 on the other hand retains the AMOLED display, but does it a little differently. It has a 5.4” AMOLED Quad HD display with 1440 resolution. The screen is designed with Motorola’s ShatterShield technology that makes the screen unshatterable. That’s right, you cannot shatter this screen. You can learn more about ShatterShield at, but essentially they have created a screen made completely of 5 plastic layers that they warrant against shattering for 4 years.

If you haven’t seen some of the drop tests on this screen you should check them out online, it’s pretty amazing. I don’t have a 3rd generation Moto X to compare the Turbo with, but the colors are bright and saturated on the Turbo 2 with the deep blacks that we’ve come to expect from AMOLED displays, although the Turbo screen does not appear to be as bright overall as the 2014 Moto X. I hate the feel of screen protectors on a device, always finding the touch and feel of the glass to be the best; so I had concerns about the feel of a plastic display. Within minutes of removing the shipping screen protector it was obvious that my fears were unfounded. This screen feels like glass. In fact, I believe it feels so much like glass that I would challenge anyone to touch this screen or the screen of a Moto X while blindfolded and tell the difference. I found it to be very responsive to touch and the viewing angles seem to be better than the 2nd generation Moto X. Both devices ship with Android Lollipop 5.1.1, and both devices are expected to be updated to Android Marshmallow version 6, but I would expect the Moto X to be updated more quickly due to the lack of carrier interference.

droid-turbo-2Hands on, this phone is a beast. You can feel the weight difference between my 2nd generation Moto x and the Turbo 2, mainly due to the significantly larger battery. The phone is not too heavy, but definitely noticeable when comparing the two. The bronze colored ballsitic nylon the back of this phone that I chose has a nice sturdy feel to it. It makes the phone easy to grip and I don’t feel like it would slide easily out of my hand. The champagne metal trim and accents look great with the bronze back and the black front helps to hide the many sensors required to make some of the Moto apps work. I’ve had a soft touch Moto X, a wood backed Moto X, and a leather backed Moto X so the ballistic nylon is a welcome change for me.

I opted for the 64gb variant so we’ll see what back I go with on my refresh later on. I also like the way Motorola designed Although it shares the same general curved shape that all of the Moto line have used for the past 3 years, it is significantly more flat in the middle of the curve. This allows the phone to still have close to the same feel in the hand as other Motorola phones, but also allows it to sit solidly on a flat surface, something other phones in the Moto line will not do. The biggest drawback of the looks of this device is the huge Verizon logo centered below the screen. The phone is also branded on the back so why Verizon felt the need to also brand the front is beyond me.

The logo is housed on the topmost plastic layer of the screen. This topmost layer is actually user replaceable in case of scratches, and although the official Motorola replacement has the Verizon logo, I expect that some enterprising individual will start selling unbranded versions. The Turbo 2 inexplicably lacks the dual speakers of the Moto X, instead opting for a single front-facing speaker. Although this doesn’t really matter to me since I almost never listen to music without using my Klipsch earbuds or being connected to external speakers via Bluetooth, and most people cannot hear stereo from two speakers placed so closely together, I can’t understand why this feature was left off for those that want it.

In everyday use the device is very fast. There is no lag when moving through screens or scrolling within apps. Battery life has been phenomenal on the Turbo 2. Although I use my phone far too heavily to ever achieve the “up to 48 hours of battery in mixed use” that Motorola claims, I have averaged about 16 hours of battery time and just shy of 6 hours of precious screen time and achieved almost 7 hours of screen time one day. While Motorola has struggled in the past with cameras, this one is impressive.

The 21 MP camera takes excellent, sharp photos in daylight and although not perfect in low light situations, does a markedly better job than previous Motorola phones did in this area. Under normal lighting conditions you can expect to get crisp, saturated photos that do not appear to be over processed. The camera is also fast, from the Motorola Twist to Shoot feature to the lightning fast shutter speed, I doubt there will be many pictures that I can’t capture. Speaking of Motorola features, the Turbo 2 has them all including chop twice for flashlight, Moto Display, Moto Assist, and Moto Voice. The Turbo 2 also includes a new Moto app call Moto Loop.

Moto Loop provides a family map for seeing where connected family members are, location sharing, and checkins as well as the ability to connect to and control Nest thermostats, and Philips Hue lights. These apps are great additions to the Android operating system that do not try to change the user experience but rather enhance it. Beyond that the OS is pretty much stock Android. No OEM skins here. Unfortunately, the Turbo 2 also comes with quite a bit of Verizon bloatware, much of which is tied to Verizon paid services that are redundant duplicates of free services already offered by Google. Although annoying, the carrier bloatware is easily disabled, never to be seen again, and after doing so the outcry you always hear about it seems somewhat trivial.

Bottom line, if you are someone who likes to move around carriers or if Verizon is not a viable option for you, then this phone is not for you. But this phone shows us what the Moto X could have been with an infusion of carrier backed funding, and if you are using Verizon or plan to use Verizon with no plans to switch in the foreseeable future, the Droid Turbo 2 is a top notch option that should be at the top of your smartphone shopping list.

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